A SCHEME encouraging young people to get involved in Stem – Science, technology, engineering and maths – culminated in a trip to the Valero refinery.

The event was the result of a 10-week initiative that saw year nine pupils from across Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire learn a variety of Stem skills, including 3D printing, electronics and virtual welding.

The finale, which was held in the refinery, tested their knowledge and problem-solving skills, with prizes handed out to the best in each test.

Eluned Morgan, minister for lifelong learning, attended the event to give out prizes.

"Stem skills are key skills we need to have in Wales, making sure we have enough people to work in the industries we have here, in particular, in engineering," she said.

"We need to attract women and girls to the industry and Valero have really understood it - that we need to attract them before they take their options for GCSEs.

"If you look at the numbers of people that study Stem in Cardiff University only 12 per cent of Stem students are women, but in Bulgaria, it's something like 27 per cent.

"This project has been highly successful, they're leading the way for how businesses should behave in Wales."

William James, spokesperson for Valero echoed the comments that the industry needed to attract more women.

"If you are locked off from 50 per cent of the workforce, then you are not going to succeed," he said.

The minister went on to say that if more young people do not take up engineering there could be a skills gap in the market, which could see businesses move overseas.

"Unless we change something, businesses will be attracted to where the skills are because the skills won't be here," she said.

"We need to show young people that engineering is no longer just about oily rags and that engineering touches on every aspect of our lives.

"There are 40,000 engineers we are going to need as a result of retirements, young people need to understand that if they go into Stem, they are more or less guaranteed a job."

Winners of the STEM activity categories were:

Virtual Welder Kit – Zoe Latrobe and Brock Weston-Rees, joint winners both achieving 99 per cent accuracy

Logistics Simulator – Brock Weston-Rees

Lego Robots Coding Challenge – Sydney Barber

Electronics Study Trainer – Zoe Latrobe

Refinery public affairs manager Stephen Thornton said, "It has been a real treat to host this fantastic finals day here at Valero.

"To see these enthusiastic young people get to grips with Stem, in a refinery setting where those world-class skills are put into use daily.

"Hopefully, this joint initiative with the education sector has sparked real interest for these pupils to develop a desire to pursue a future involving Stem."